Betty’s mother has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for five years, and as the disease has progressed, their ability to communicate with each other has declined. At this point in their relationship, mom is inconsolably upset and disoriented at the inability to express herself through words. As the primary caregiver, Betty is getting increasingly frustrated as she is now forced to interpret nonverbal communication such as facial expressions and body language.

Good communication is important at every stage of the caregiving journey, but as humans, we prefer to use our words. Sure, we all know how to pick up on the occasional nonverbal cue, but we’re not trained to interpret nonverbal communication 100% of the time, especially when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Examples of nonverbal cues include:

  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Facial expressions
  • Eye Contact
  • Behavior
  • Gestures
  • Appearance

In my book, You’re not Alone: Living as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, you learn that nonverbal communication is important to be aware of both in what we are communicating to our loved ones and what they are communicating to us. They are sensitive to how you interact with them and are still able to determine if you are sincere or not.

Here are 5 ways to interpret nonverbal communication (with examples) when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

  1. Your loved one gets up and goes to the bathroom several times each hour. – They may be communicating pain, such as a urinary tract infection or other illness. Rather than get frustrated, schedule an appointment with their physician.
  1. Your loved one takes off their shirt in public. – This could mean they are too hot. Try putting lighter clothing on and something that will be difficult for them to take off without help.
  1. Your loved one has a grimaced look on their face. – Again, they are likely in pain. Look at their position; ask them if they hurt, and if so, have them point to where they hurt.
  1. Your loved one firmly holds his or her mouth closed when you’re feeding them. – This may be a simple sign that they are not hungry. Try feeding them again at another time.
  1. Your loved one cries when you walk out of the room. – They may be expressing fear of being alone. A good idea is to give them an object to hold, such as a teddy bear or stuffed animal. Always reassure them that you will be back.

If you would like to read more, here are 10 more communication tools you can implement now. As a caregiver, you want to prevent negativity as much as possible. Remain mindful of what made your relationship so special in the first place and communicate effectively so that your loved one has time to process and respond.

Call Leigh Hilton PLLC today!

As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, keep in mind that chronic diseases and chronic illnesses have a way of changing relationships for so many reasons and in so many ways. Roadmaps such as the tools mentioned above can be helpful, but they are not easy initially and will require patience and practice.

At Leigh Hilton PLLC in Denton, TX, we have sat in awe of clients who manage to juggle so much for themselves and loved ones. Our goal was to build a practice with a team of professionals who work together to have your back at all times – whether that means putting steps in place to protect you and your loved ones or offering practical advice. Leigh Hilton PLLC wants to be your first call every time for any estate planning or elder law need. We look forward to serving you.

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